Fear of Domination – Atlas
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Quite simply, Fear of Domination never disappoint. They play a very unique blend of melodeath and industrial metal, always very synth heavy but managing to retain the crushing power you would expect from their two genres of choice. While the keyboards might seem a little over the top at first it’s a style that I find grows on the listener very quickly. And besides, just look at the band; did you really expect to hear something that wasn’t exuberant and slightly weird?
Atlas goes in a slightly different direction from past efforts in terms of atmosphere as there’s often a sense of darkness that wasn’t always tangible on Distorted Delusions. I do think that Fear of Domination have the ability to pull this kind of thing off, and past songs like “Organ Grinder” use this to great effect. On Atlas however, almost every song seems to go through phases of including and then ignoring this, inadvertently splintering each song into separate parts. When the songs remain consistent, things aren’t necessarily better either, as the bleak title track turns out to be rather lacking in the action department. If there’s one track that really captures what Fear of Domination appear to be going for here it’s the last track on the album, “Final Transmission”. Hard hitting like you’d expect from this band, but with a beautifully worked atmosphere courtesy of the eerie female vocals in the background. Without a doubt this is the highlight of the album.
If you think that alone is enough to ruin this album though, you’d be wrong. As always, the synth work is completely stellar. Although used somewhat sparingly at times when it comes into play everything else steps up tenfold to match it. The energy that the band gives on tracks like “Primordial” makes it impossible not to head-bang along to the beat. Without the synth everything is so dry and lifeless, and really there’s no need for it to be. Guitars are very much secondary to the keyboards here, mostly chugging along in a monotonous fashion during the verses and simply power riffing during the choruses, but they’re capable of producing some spectacular stuff themselves. I particularly love the solo on “El Toro”. I just wish that they could include a little more of it across Atlas. A lot of the time they seem to be there just to create the thundering wall of noise behind the keyboards, and it’s a bit of a waste.
A particularly noteworthy point is the difference in vocals on this album compared to their others. On the three albums prior to Atlas, Saku Solin only did harsh vocals that were merely okay, consisting solely of high screams that were slightly distorted. Cleans were occasionally included, but only as backing vocals and they cropped up only rarely. Atlas mixes that up drastically, with cleans appearing on just about every track at some point and a few different types of harsh vocals also coming into play occasionally. The variety works very well I find, adding that extra dynamic, and the cleans in particular work very well. Generally speaking the songs with heavy use of clean vocals on previous albums have always caught my attention more, so this could only ever be a good thing for Fear of Domination.
There are undoubtedly a few flaws, but even if a lot of the album doesn’t quite work as intended, the majority of songs on this record are still very enjoyable. It’s intense, action-packed, thunderingly heavy and yet somehow beautifully melodic. Fear of Domination have a very impressive discography, and I have no doubts that Atlas will fit in there very well and more than hold its own against its predecessors.